Happy 125th Birthday

A 125 years ago today the first issue of the Veterinary Record was published.  I have written about its founder William Hunting and his reasons for starting the journal before.  In fact I walk past a reminder of this everyday as his quote in the first editorial about the importance of recording observations and adding to the profession’s knowledge was engraved on a brass plaque after his death to sit alongside his portrait at the RCVS.

Plaque which accompanies the portrait of William Hunting

Plaque which accompanies the portrait of William Hunting

I was recently reminded that there is another publication, the Journal of Comparative Pathology and Therapeutics (now called the Journal of Comparative Pathology),  which is also celebrating its 125 anniversary this year.  The founding editor of this journal, John McFadyean, was another eminent member of the veterinary profession.  Unlike Hunting he did not reveal his reasons for starting the journal in the first issue but looking at the contents page for the first volume  you get some indication of his intentions from the range of subjects and authors.

John McFadyean founding editor of Journal of Comparative Pathology and Therapeutics

John McFadyean founding editor of Journal of Comparative Pathology and Therapeutics

Both the journals have been marking their anniversary year in some style. Veterinary Record is asking its readers to consider a list of 10 developments or events with significant impact on the veterinary profession and to vote on their favourite.  It is also publishing a number of articles giving a historical perspective on the development of a particular branch of veterinary science.

The Journal of Comparative Pathology has made is entire 125 year archive available online, and published a special anniversary edition In the special edition the link between the past and the present is explored through the publication of a 1901 article by Robert Koch alongside a new article which describes the importance of  Koch’s postulates to infectious disease research and proposes a new additional postulate .

We are fortunate to have all 125 years of both these journals in the Library so anyone wanting to explore the link between past and present knowledge, to find out more about the achievements of the profession, or to read about its trials and tribulations should pay us a visit.

10th International Veterinary Congress: a case of unfortunate timing

At 11pm on 4th August 1914 Britain declared war on Germany.  That same evening at the Natural History Museum 300 guests were gathered for the conversazione and reception of the 10th International Veterinary Congress.  A Congress that had been many years in the planning ….

Programme of music at the reception

Programme of music at the reception

London had been chosen as the venue for the 10th meeting of the International VeterinaryCongress  (IVC) at the previous meeting in 1909.   The original plan had been to hold the 10th IVC in 1913 but as there was already an international medical congress in London that year the date was moved to the summer 1914,

The organising committee consisted of Sir John McFadyean, Principal of the Royal Veterinary College, his son-in-law Stewart Stockman plus 28 others including the RCVS Registrar Fred Bullock.  In July 1911 the Committee met for the first time – the main topic of discussion was how the estimated £3,500 needed to run the Congress would be found.

By October 1912 good progress was reported to have been made with the scientific and social programmes but only £300 had been raised.  Planning continued throughout 1913 – the RCVS voted to make distinguished foreign visitors Honorary Associates and the ‘coffers’ increased to £3,180.

In early 1914 it was announced that: the money had been raised; places at the commercial exhibition were selling well, and the papers to be presented had been translated into English, French and German ready for printing.

By June some 1300 delegates had registered and the stage was set for a successful congress and then … on  the 28th Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo and everything changed.

Over the coming weeks as the threat of war grew McFadyean and his committee considered postponing the congress but in the end, with so much at stake, they decided to carry on.

Congress badge

Congress badge

The first event, an evening reception at the Hotel Cecil on the Strand, took place on the 2nd August with far fewer attendees than had been expected

The following morning McFadyean officially opened the congress. There was good representation from the USA, Canada, China, Brazil and South Africa but representation from Germany, France, Austria, Serbia, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy was practically none existent.

After the opening addresses and the election of officers for the meeting, McFadyean announced the scientific programme would start the following day.

At 11am on the 4th August McFadyean again mounted the podium and uttered the following words “Yesterday we felt the cloud of anxiety… and today the cloud has become much darker”. He then proposed that the meeting should adjourn and reassemble at 3pm to transact the “business necessary to bring the Congress to a close”.  This they  did with all activities cancelled except for the conversazione that evening.

Thus 300 delegates were at the Natural History Museum, listening to the String Band of the Royal Artillery and studying the specially selected exhibits, as Britain officially entered the war.

Boxes of unused badges from the 10th International Veterinary Congress

Boxes of unused badges

It would appear that much of the winding up activities were left to the RCVS registrar Fred Bullock. This is probably why the records (letters, receipts, minute book, accounts etc) are in our archives.  Perhaps the most poignant memento we have of the congress that never was are the boxes of pristine congress badges whose intended recipients never even made it to London

For a  fuller account of the 10th IVC  see Bruce Vivash Jones (2014)  Unfortunate timing Veterinary Record  174(25)  pp 627-629